November’s priorities for new headteachers

Written by: Helen Frostick | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

This year in Headteacher Update, National Leader of Education, Helen Frostick, is offering term-by-term advice for those new to school headship. In her second article, she focuses on issues including Pupil Premium, staff wellbeing, Ofsted and data as the autumn term enters the home straight

“Headteachers occupy an influential position in society and shape the teaching profession. They are lead professionals and significant role models within the community they serve. The values and ambitions of headteachers determine the achievements of schools. They are accountable for the education of current and future generations of pupils.”
National Standards of Excellence for Headteachers (DfE, 2015).

The role of the headteacher is broad, important and excitingly diverse. The first half of the term is over, with all of the many systems set up and the first governors’ meeting and parents’ evenings out of the way. The second half of the term runs up to the busy Christmas season, personally and professionally. Now is a good time to focus on wellbeing and working smarter.

At the same time, the new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework (May 2019) is clearer as to what is expected in terms of curriculum “intent, implementation and impact” – new terms in the headteacher’s vocabulary.

This article suggests areas to focus on this half-term, while also considering the change in Ofsted focus and the fact that outstanding schools are no longer to be exempt from inspection.

Pupil Premium progress reviews

The Pupil Premium strategy is already up on the website. What next? At St Mary Magdalen’s, we review the progress of our Pupil Premium pupils every half-term. This helps us to shape our strategy and stop interventions if they are having little or no impact.

Individual support plans have been drawn up and contain all of the information about the pupils – progress trajectories, interventions, provision maps and the intended impact in terms of attainment. An important role of the headteacher is to oversee the Pupil Premium strategy, including the requirements of the new EIF. Some key questions that Ofsted may well ask you include:

  • Who is responsible for the Pupil Premium vision and strategy?
  • What are the priorities?
  • How is value for money measured?
  • Which children are receiving extra support? The answer needs to be need-related, so beware of the children being targeted because they are in test years. The interventions need to be directed at those pupils below expectations.
  • Is the curriculum being narrowed for Pupil Premium pupils who miss classroom lessons while they receive interventions? Remember that the EIF will crack-down particularly on schools that narrow the curriculum. (Schools need to be mindful of the same pupil missing the same lesson each week. A solution is to change the timetable of the interventions or change the pupils every six weeks.)
  • Which staff are responsible for the outcomes of the Pupil Premium pupils? Questions will be asked as to what every day arrangements are in place to prioritise Pupil Premium pupils by all staff. For example, at St Mary Magdalen’s Pupil Premium pupils’ books are always marked first, or Pupil Premium pupils always have their feedback first.

Valuing the staff

Another factor included in Ofsted’s new EIF is a focus on how school leaders tackle staff workload and look after the wellbeing of their teachers and other staff, including their work/life balance.

This is an important agenda. Not least because building up the goodwill of the staff will help to keep the school a positive environment in which to work.

First, the headteacher’s mood sets the mood of the school. Find ways to treat staff as individuals as well as a team. It is not a sign of weakness to be kind and generous. Staff will ask for the occasional day to go to graduations, hospital appointments and funerals, for example. We all work within the confines of the school year, so it is a good idea to grant these requests. However, it has to be equitable. If you feel that one member of staff is going above their quota then say so.

A fun idea we have adopted is teachers’ feathers based on an experience I had as a teacher in Wasington DC, in Neabsco Elementary School (named after a Native American Indian tribe). Feathers were given out to members of staff nominated by their colleagues for an act of kindness. They then went into a weekly raffle to win donated prizes such as hotel weekends. Back in London, we hold the raffle in the weekly assembly with a pupil pulling one name out of a hat. It is a highlight of the week for us all and reinforces the importance of teamwork. It also puts a smile on everyone’s face.

Data review

In the second half of the autumn term, end of key stage data has been ratified. Now is a good time to look back, but also to look forward.

In terms of looking back, analyse question-level responses and plug gaps in teachers’ subject knowledge accordingly through CPD.

In terms of looking forward, set targets for end of key stages which are realistic but also ambitious. This is also a good time to complete the data section of the school self-evaluation form.

In the cycle of the school year this is when we set pupil progress targets as part of performance management. The staff have had the first half-term to really get to know where the children are at and will be more comfortable with target-setting.

Preparation for Ofsted

We were designated an outstanding school in June 2013. However, in order to not rest on our laurels – and with the government’s decision to no longer exempt outstanding schools from inspection (DfE, 2019) – I commissioned a review by four local authority school improvement partners (SIPS). The focus was on what our next steps should be in order to meet the increased expectations under the EIF.

Inspectors were trained in the summer to prepare themselves for the first wave of inspections and there is now more clarity around what the three “I”s – intent, implementation and impact – actually mean.

Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and early reading were significant areas of scrutiny or “deep dives.” It is really important that headteachers are confident in this area. Questions will be asked such as: What is your intent for EYFS? Where do you want the children to be by the end of this term? Next term? The end of the year? Which phase in phonics?

From that point it is important that it follows through to year 1 in terms of pitch and expectations in phonics. Planning needs to be sequenced into age/stage. The new focus on curriculum design is also an opportunity for schools to put their own spin on “intent”.

Subject leadership

Likewise, all subject leaders need to know what is happening in their area in EYFS. What does the curriculum offer look like in EYFS and what are the expectations for the end of year in each area? From that point how do the skills and knowledge build from year-to-year?

The requirements of the national curriculum are very broad in the foundation subjects and it is up to schools how to break down the knowledge and skills into a sequence of learning. In the “deep dives” children will be asked questions to show what knowledge has stuck. For example in history the pupils at St Mary Magdalen’s were asked about how their topics last year have fed into this year’s.

The SENCO

Since 2009, SENCOs have been expected to have the National Award SENCO Qualification. If not then the SENCO will be expected to demonstrate equivalent understanding through having accessed training. SENCOs will be expected to answer questions such as:

  • How is SEN organised in the school?
  • How do SEN children perform?
  • What are the assessments telling you about the attainment and progress of SEN pupils?
  • How are the learning support assistants and teaching assistants trained and line-managed?

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

I am a mentor for two headteachers and recently one of them asked that we go through the data protection policy. November is a good time to familiarise yourself with the requirements regarding personal data. Many of us adopted model GDPR data policies, but it is good practice to read the section of the policy listing type of data, type of processing, purpose of processing, lawful basis for processing, type of recipient to whom personal data is transferred, retention period, statute or guidance, and disposal methodology.

The majority of secondary schools do not want the personal data of pupils transferring on to them. This necessitates referring to the GDPR policy. Have you remembered to send home your “Use of digital images-photography and video letter?” We take photographs of Reception class after half-term so this is a good time to have it as a deadline.

Further information & resources


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